One cold December night I hosted a Christmas party at my house in Little Rock.  One of my friends arrived at the door in a sweater over her party dress.  It was bitterly cold.  I asked “it’s freezing outside, where is your coat?”  She smiled and explained that she had three boys and they needed stuff, so she was going without a coat that year.

I was hanging out with a group of women that were into “stuff”.  Not the “stuff” like warm coats and cars to get to work, but expensive “stuff”.  We would have lunch and ooh and aah over the new diamond bracelet, or the new Mercedes.  There was disdain over a fox fur coat, and even mink.   Sable was what was desired.  The love of friends and husbands was shown by gifts, and those gifts had a hefty price tag.

I am ashamed to say I got caught up in that.  I had a Christmas list that year that read like the Neiman Marcus catalog.

My friend standing on my front porch with a genuine, not self pitying smile, while she cheerfully told me she could not afford a winter coat was like a splash of needed cold water.  I had a closet full of coats, yet still I wanted, “needed” more?

She left that night with a warm coat.  She left that night haven given me one of the most important gifts of my life; the understanding that THINGS are not what is important.

I’ve lived in a mobile home.  I’ve lived in a 10,000 sq ft mansion.  I cried tears in both.  I’ve owned a 1964 Volkswagen bug that I had to push to get started on a regular basis.  I’ve also owned a Porsche and numerous BMW’s.   NONE OF THOSE THINGS MADE ME HAPPY.  And none of those things are still in my life now.

I now understand that the valuable gifts are not things.  They are people, love, laughter, experiences.  They are what give me joy that cannot tarnish or breakdown.

I see the sunrise and sunsets reflecting on my Colorado mountains.

I ride my heart horse Bali with friends old and new on a perfect crisp fall day.  I notice the sun sparkling  of the creek we cross, and I see the trout darting through the crystal clear water.  I hear the laughter of my friends as they fight their way through the trees because I accidentally led them off the path.  Hugs and smiles as we part at the end of the ride.

I sit on my deck, bundled in a coat and blanket, drinking coffee with new friends from Germany.  They are riveted by the night sky full of starts, which they havent seen in 20 years because of the light pollution in their city.   Think about that.  We gave them their first ride in a truck and their first ride in a Wrangler.  They were full of joy and awe as we drove Shelf Road through fall leaves as they stood in the back seat taking pictures.  Peter and Magda popped into my life unexpectedly (thank you Helene) and I am so grateful for the gift of time spent with them.

My children are smart, funny, loving human beings.

Not only does my husband love me, but we get to share our love for horses, riding and adventure.  He always, always says “great!” when I tell him more people are coming to stay with us.

Then there is my “Tribe”.  There is something magical about finding those people that just really “get” you.  There is no negativity, no backbiting, no jealousy.   Just love, support, acceptance and lots of laughter.  I had that with my peeps in Little Rock.  It wasn’t so easy to find after our move to Colorado but I sure have it now.

I don’t take these things for granted.  I am so very aware of how short life is.  I’ve lost friends this year to death.  I’ve cried while hearing about the loss of a child or a beloved pet.  There are people hurting because of fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, loss of a job, loss of a relationship.   Sickness, hardship, death, hurt.  All of those have been in my past.  Many will be in my future.

Being aware of my gifts, appreciating them, gives me the strength to get through those tough times.  I CHOOSE to emphasize the good in each day.   I CHOOSE to see the best in my friends, and to move into an outer circle those that want to drag me down.  I CHOOSE to savor the many little things that can bring a smile.

Now don’t think I’m all rainbows and unicorns.  I get frustrated.  I get hurt.  I get angry.  But I’m finding that if I am aware of all that I have to be grateful for, its easier to get over the bumps.  So every single day I breath deep and am grateful.

We went to a Jason Isbell concert at Red Rocks a few weeks ago.  Talk about a gift to really savor; sitting in that venue on a perfect Colorado night is about as good as it gets.  He played one of my favorite songs that includes these words:

Are you living the life you chose? Or are you living the life that chose you?

I smiled through tears.

I’m so lucky to be living the life I choose.

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